Scouting the Chargers

A unit-by-unit positional analysis of the San Diego Chargers

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Philip Rivers. Backups -- Billy Volek, Charlie Whitehurst.
    Rivers seems to have regressed a bit despite having more weapons on the outside in Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson and Craig Davis. The Chargers are also in good hands considering Volek has started and won in this league -- not many backups can say that. Team still high on the upside of Whitehurst.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB LaDainian Tomlinson, FB Lorenzo Neal. Backups - RB Michael Turner, RB Darren Sproles, FB Andrew Pinnock
    Tomlinson is off to a slow start to the season as most teams main key is to stop him. L.T. remains on pace to eclipse 1400 rushing yards. Neal is fantastic, despite entering his 15th season, and Michael Turner is one of the game's best backups.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Antonio Gates. Backups -- Brandon Manumaleuna, Scott Chandler.
    Gates is the best at what he does -- there's no other way to put it. And in Manumaleuna, the team might have one of the game's best blocking tight ends as well. Gates and Tomlinson continue to work off each other, opening up room for the other.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers. Backups -- Craig Davis, Legedu Naanee, Malcom Floyd, Kassim Osgood.
    The Chargers traded a second-round pick for Chris Chambers a few weeks ago and he's paid immediate dividends as their number one receiver. Jackson is a speedy outside thread, and Floyd, at 6-5, is a dynamite target in the red zone.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Marcus McNeill, LG Kris Dielman, C Nick Hardwick, RG Mike Goff, RT Shane Olivea. Backups -- LT Roman Oben, LG Scott Mruczkowski, C Cory Withrow, RG Scott Mruczkowski.
    For the first time since Tomlinson started carrying the ball for the Chargers in 2001, he has the same offensive line blocking for him as he did the previous year. This is a talented unit that is long on young talent in McNeill (a Pro Bowler as a rookie last year), Dielman (a possible Pro Bowler this year) and Hardwick (a Pro Bowler last year). Goff keeps them in line with a veteran presence and Olivea isn't one to back down.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LE Luis Castillo, DT Jamal Williams, RE Igor Olshansky. Backups -- DE Jacques Cesaire, DT, Ryon Bingham, DT Brandon McKinney.
    Williams has been called by veteran defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell as the best nose tackle he has ever coached. He is on pace for another Pro Bowl season. Castillo is one of the better linemen in the league, despite battling injuries. There is good depth at these positions.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- OLB Shaun Phillips, ILB Stephen Cooper, ILB Matt Wilhelm, OLB Shawne Merriman. Backups -- OLB Marques Harris, ILB Tim Dobbins, ILB Anthony Waters, ILB Brandon Siler, OLB Carlos Polk.
    Merriman is easily one of the very best linebackers in the NFL, along with Shaun Phillips. Phillips is very quick off the line and effective in reaching the pocket. Still, there are some question marks on the inside, as Cooper and Wilhelm are both first-time starters entering a season.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Quentin Jammer, RCB Drayton Florence, SS Clinton Hart, FS Marlon McCree. Backups -- LCB Cletis Gordon, RCB Drayton Florence. SS Eric Weddle, LCB Steven Gregory, RCB Paul Oliver.
    Jammer and Florence are very solid on the outsides. Hart is a first-time starter heading into a season and he had to hold off a spirited challenge by Weddle, the versatile rookie. McCree is a local product from Port Orange, FL, and is asked to get everyone line up and in the right spot -- among his attributes are his communication skills. Cromartie is a big play nickel back when Jammer is healthy, and had three interceptions against Peyton Manning and the Colts on Sunday night.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Nate Kaeding, P Mike Scifres, KOR, PR Darren Sproles, LS David Binn.
    Kaeding has a fine leg and is one of the game's best kickers. Scifres is one of the AFC's best and he is now working in directional punting to go with his consistent hang time. Sproles has transformed himself from a possible camp casualty to a return man in which most teams would consider kicking away from.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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